Allie Dunn - Music, Med School And Tom Petty; Debut EP Good As Gone, Out Now
Even though we haven’t met in person yet, I feel like I could easily hang out with Allie Dunn. Her manager, Stuart Berk reached out to tell me about her and although I’m probably at least twice her age, I feel like she’s a kindred spirit! Her debut ep, Good As Gone is out now on Porter Rose Records. Alongside memorable melodies and some crunchy guitar, these four very well written songs are rich with emotion, both serious and playful. Allie Dunn celebrates Good As Gone with a release show tonight at the 5 Spot in East Nashville. Allie Dunn's "Need Somebody" starts off the Local Brew Hour this Sunday at 8am on WMOT.
AnaLee: I mentioned that I feel like we’d be good friends in the opening paragraph because I felt such a connection to your songs and then reading about your background, I realize we do have some similarities – my parents strong record collection and growing up in an Italian-American home; mine on the west coast in Los Angeles and you in New York City. I know what it feels like to leave your hometown behind, but not at such a young age in pursuit of a dream like you recently did. Talk a little about your background, that first Eagles song you heard that inspired the musical spark inside of you and your decision to pack up and move to Nashville.
Allie: Ana! This made me smile so big, I am so glad you were able to pull a connection from my songs on this EP, that is my main goal with music so thank you for sharing that (and yes let’s grab Italian food and bond over our heritage!!) So, I’m sure you know growing up in an Italian-American family, providing for your family is the main priority and work is just a “job” to help you do that. Not saying my parents didn’t both love their careers as a firefighter and physician, but it was a practical and safe approach to provide a stable life for us (which I am very thankful for). So creative careers were kind of a far-away concept that was hard to grab a hold of and pursue. Although, I remember listening to “Take it Easy” for the first time when I was around 13 in my dad’s old car and the windows were down and he was singing it at the top of his lungs and I haven’t ever felt that excited or “free” as they would say. So that memory burned in my mind and ever since that day I’ve been writing songs ever since. It took me until graduating college with a biology degree to realize that I can pursue a career in music and I should do it because I have never felt more pulled toward anything in my life ever. So, I said goodbye to the direction of medical school and headed straight to Nashville!
AnaLee: The story of how you met your manager, Stuart Berk, is the thing screenplays are made of! You’d left the idea of a career in medicine behind but you needed a job when you got here. You were temping at an optometrist’s office and Stuart was a patient?
Allie: Ha, I think the same thing, someone get me and Stu an Emmy! Kidding, although yes it was very cinematic and full circle how I met Stu. Yes, Stu was a regular patient. I had a ton of day jobs while living here in Nashville and the most recent one I had was pre-testing patients at a family owned optometrist office. My buddy worked there and I had knowledge in the medical field so it was a great fit at the time. I remember my coworker called out sick that day so I had to come in and cover her shift, so I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I was not in a good mood I remember but then Stu rolled in and I did a bunch of fancy tests on these machines to check his prescription and we got to talking. Long story short, it came up that I was a singer/songwriter and he mentioned he tour managed some big folks (Brandi Carlile, Lauv, John Legend etc.) and then asked me to send my music to him. At that point I was a good friend of the “Nashville No” so I didn't expect him to even answer and then fast forward he is now my manager and we have the greatest working relationship ever. Crazy how life works.
AnaLee: These songs! I want to talk about them, but first, you worked with Ross Cooper, an artist we’ve played on WMOT and Oscar Charles at Oscar’s studio. Tell us about recording Good As Gone and your band, including Ross and Oscar.
Allie: I LOVE ROSS! Ross is seriously like my older brother here in town, one of the most genuine, talented, hardworking humans ever. During COVID, I lost my day job giving tours to tourists at this local distillery so I started bottling the actual whiskey. Ross couldn’t play shows so he started working on the bottling line as well. Ross is tough to break into at first but I got through to him and we became real good buds. The one magical day I was tired of strictly writing for commercial folks and wanted to try recording my own stuff. So, I started humming on the bottling line “I need a producer” and Ross heard me and laughed was like “you should work with Oscar and I.” We wound up all meeting and they understood what I was going for and they both agreed to co-produce all the tunes. We used Ross’ band to track who I didn’t know at first but became close with all of them (Ray Akers and Brian Cox) and pulled in Jeremy Fetzer to add a different texture for lead guitar and it all worked out too perfectly.
AnaLee: The first song Stuart shared with me was “Tom Petty”. Now, being a self-proclaimed Tom Petty fanatic, I was of course intrigued and was thinking, oh, I’m going to love an ode to one of my favorite musicians and songwriters of all time. That’s not what this is and I am not disappointed. I related to this fun, incredibly catchy song about relationship dealbreakers. It’s so good! Would you tell us a little about writing the songs on the ep, including how “Tom Petty” came about?
Allie: I am so happy you are not disappointed haha! I moved to town originally strictly to be a songwriter so the first year and a half I was writing 90% of my songs for other artists. Out of the 10% is “Tom Petty.” That was the first song I ever co-written in Nashville with a great buddy of mine Kyle Sturrock. It was originally supposed to be about Billy Joel but that didn’t sing too well so we went with Tom Petty because he is my second favorite of all time. “Good As Gone” was in the 90% category because it was originally written with and for an artist named Ashley Cooke. She was going through a tough time questioning why she couldn’t ever like someone who was good for her so we dove into that and came out with this tune. After we wrote it, I found pieces of my own story in that song and fell in love with it. “Do You Miss Me (NYC)” was one of the first solo writes I had in a while since moving here and it was during quarantine. I missed my family so much during that time and I’ve been avoiding writing a song about NYC because it is a tear jerker subject for me but one night I sat at the piano and it just came to me. It’s one of those songs that falls onto your lap and you feel like a super power force showed up and wrote it for you. It is my favorite on the EP. “Need Somebody” was also a quarantine song, I woke up one morning and started playing this chord progression and my boyfriend, who is a producer in town, put the mic to my guitar and started tracking. I was listening to so much sad shit that I wanted to write an uplifting song. I am very big in independence but as humans we need someone or something to help us through the tough times and this is about that. Crazy to think I wrote it with my boyfriend about my boyfriend (but also about my dog too haha).
AnaLee: I can’t wait to hear your next batch of songs, Allie. You’ve given us four and left us wanting more! I am also a fan of Ross Cooper’s songs. He’s playing your release show along with a couple of other artists tonight at the 5 Spot. What can you tell us about tonight and the other artists on the bill?
Allie: Ugh, I cannot wait either! Top of 2022 we’re getting in the studio! Yes, Ross is playing the 5 Spot with me, Zoe Cummins, and High Heat tonight. I wanted to celebrate the release of my EP with artists who I truly believe in. Ross and Zoe Cummins are local artists/friends/collaborators and High Heat is a band from Knoxville who I love. I secretly wanted them all to just play for me so I can sing their songs and fangirl haha, but seriously come out tonight y’all if you have no plans, I promise you won’t be disappointed.